SEVENTEEN STUDENTS and a teacher’s helper suffered from food poisoning allegedly after consuming the midday meal served at BMC-aided Sahyadri Vidyamandir in Bhandup on Thursday.
Twelve girls and five boys, all students of Class VII, complained of stomach ache and vomiting around 11 am, half-an-hour after they ate rice and dal served as part of the midday meal, said Narayan Sawant, trustee of the school in Bhandup West. A helper teacher (employees who assists teachers with administrative tasks), who had tasted the food before it was served to the children, too, fell sick.
“All of them are vomiting and have stomach pain. But they are all stable,” said Dr Usha Mhoprekar, Medical Superintendent of MT Agarwal Municipal General Hospital, where the ill have been admitted. Until Thursday evening, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had collected samples of tuar dal, rice, cooking oil and spices used in preparing the meal. “The children were given only rice and dal. There were no vegetables,” said Food Safety Officer Rashmi Wanjari.
Around 700 children from classes V and VIII were served midday meal in the morning session of the school, said Sawant. “This is the first such instance. The exact cause behind the incident is not known. So, we are not sure if there was anything wrong with the meal served. The contract for midday meal is given by the education department of the BMC,” he said. Sawant said that the midday meal came in eight cans and the children who consumed the food from a particular can fell sick. “We have followed all processes. The food was tasted by teachers before being served to the children. We are awaiting the report from FDA and BMC,” he added.
“My husband received a call around 11 am from the school informing that our son Yagnesh had fallen sick. We then rushed to the hospital,” said Mansi Panchal.
Education Officer (BMC) Mahesh Palkar said some of the children at the hospital and the helper teacher have complained of the food tasting slightly sour. “We are investigating whether the dal served was stale… We have collected samples from the containers at the school as well as from the kitchen. Samples of drinking water have also been collected… The samples have been sent to our lab for testing.” Following the incident, the BMC’s education department blacklisted a women’s self-help group (SHG) that has served the midday meal to the school.
For the last 12 years, Sahyadri Vidyamandir has been receiving its midday meal from the Sri Lingeshwar Mahila Mandal, a women’s self-help group. “We have been supplying midday meals to 25 schools in the vicinity for over 15 years. We have never had any problem before. The BMC and FDA are investigating the cause. We are cooperating with them,” said Girish Rane, a representative of the SHG. The police are, however, yet to register a complaint. Bhandup police Senior Inspector Ramesh Khade said: “There will be more clarity once the FDA submits a report on the food samples seized from the spot.”
(With inputs from Tabassum Barnagarwala and Mohammed Thaver)